As part of our preview for the upcoming 2012 season, we’ll be doing a 10 Bold Predictions for 2013 series that will be featured between now and Opening Day. Our sixth prediction is that B.J. is the Upton with the stronger 2013 season.
Maybe the story of the off season is that the Braves were able to go out and get the talented Upton brothers. BJ signed as a free agent from Tampa Bay and Justin was acquired via trade from Arizona. Both brother possess tremendous athletic ability and skill and have carved out very nice careers so far. The general consensus has long been that Justin is and will be the better player. He has just a slightly lower career WAR than older brother BJ in one less season and has the best single season WAR between the two at 5.7. And most thought that the Braves made a better deal to get Justin than BJ.
I’m going out on a limb though and saying BJ will have the better season. BJ’s main struggle has been in the batting average department. After hitting .273 in 2008, he has hovered under .250. The power hasn’t gone away though – he hit the most home runs in his career last year with 28 and still stole 31 bases. He is getting out of Tropicana and into a slightly better hitters park. What if he can get back to .260 this year – that’s pretty much league average now. And don’t forget the benefit of going to the NL where the talent is generally a notch lower.
Now what about Justin? He’s always had the advantage in batting average, topping out at .300 in 2009. He seemingly has been in a bad situation in Arizona where he didn’t “fit in” for some reason. In 2011 he was just on the cusp of breaking out an MVP season (he wouldn’t have touched Matt Kemp or Ryan Braun in reality) hitting 31 home runs with 21 SB. But last year he “regressed”, getting only 17 and 18. That’s not a bad line, but it’s not the line of a young superstar waiting to break out. A lot of people are pegging Justin to have a huge year now that he is free from the desert. I’m not so sure. I see his batting average continuing to slip just a bit to .275 or so. The power and steals should come back some especially if he plays 158 instead of 150 games.
I see BJ besting Justin this year. And as I researched this article I found I’m not the only one. ZiPS projections have BJ besting Justin in WAR by a small margin – 3.8 to 3.3. We’ll have to wait a few months or longer to see.
Final prediction: BJ – .261, 32 HR, 92 RBI, 87 runs, 35 SB Justin – .275, 23 HR, 75 RBI, 90 runs, 21 SB